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Saab AB

Today, the brand Saab is being used by two parties - Saab AB and Saab Automobile AB. Saab serves the global market with world-leading products, services and solutions ranging from military defence to civil security. Saab has operations and employees on all continents and constantly develops, adopts and improves new technology to meet customers' changing needs. When Saab AB, which originally was an acronym for "Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget" [Swedish Airplane Corporation], was founded in 1937, its primary aim was to meet the need for a domestic military aircraft industry in Sweden.

With the deliveries of its first aircraft, the light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft B17, Saab became the dominant supplier to the Swedish Air Force. Saab and the Swedish Air Force have progressed together through various generations of military jet aircraft, introducing world-leading technology every step of the way. In the late 1940's Saab introduced the J29 Tunnan fighter, which was followed in the 1950's by Lansen and later by Draken (1960) and Viggen (1971). In the 1960's Saab helped to create Sweden's computer, missile and space industries. The first deliveries of Gripen, the first of the fourth generation fighter aircraft to enter service, began in 1993. In 1999 South Africa signed the first export order for Gripen. Since then the Czech Republic and Hungary have also signed contracts.

Military aircraft production led not only to commercial aircraft production but also a number of other businesses and products. In the 1940's automobile manufacture began.After world war two the demand for military aircraft was decreasing and the engineers started to develop a car. 1947 the first Saab car, Saab 92, was ready to be shown. The car was aerodynamically built because of the engineering background from military aircraft. Also, not common was that the car had front-wheel drive. In 1969 Saab and Scania merged to form Saab-Scania, a company combining aircraft and defence systems with the manufacture of automobiles, trucks and buses.

In 1990 the passenger car division became an independent company, Saab Automobile. In 1995 Saab-Scania was demerged into two companies when business and truck manufacturer Scania was separated from Saab. Since 2000 Saab Automobile is wholly owned by General Motors.

Sweden cherishes its neutrality; it has not fought a war in nearly two centuries. It even stayed out of World War I and World War II. Yet it lives in a very rough neighborhood. To the west and south lie Norway and Denmark, conquered by the Nazis in 1940. To the east is Finland, invaded by the Soviets in 1939. Sweden has not relied exclusively on its diplomats in dealing with other powers but has put much effort into achieving armed strength.

Sweden has long been known for excellence in its armaments. Alfred Nobel was a Swede who made his fortune as a manufacturer of munitions. The Swedish firm of Bofors built a strong reputation for its guns. With a population of around eight million, Sweden stands out through its strong commitment to strength through air power. Only Israel matches Sweden in combining low population with a superb domestic air industry and a first-rate Air Force.

Sweden's aviation industry gained strength through close ties with its auto manufacturers, Saab and Volvo. The industry cut the price per airplane by building many of them, which spread out the program cost. To reduce the cost of engines, Sweden built modified versions of U.S. designs under license. Sweden also cut costs by building fighters for air defense, rather than more expensive bombers. Its Air Force avoids large andcostly air bases. Instead, its planes are built to fly from ordinary roadways-which means that any stretch of forest might hide an active squadron.

Sweden's Air Force does not follow a "Buy Swedish" policy by insisting on the use of domestically built aircraft, but is free to purchase warplanes built in other nations, including the United States. This has kept domestic planebuilders on their toes, knowing that their designs must be as good as the best. When competing with overseas firms, Swedish industry made sales by tailoring designs to Sweden's specific needs. These include operation from remote areas amid cold and snow, along with the ability to take off and land from short stretches of roadway.

From the outset Saab worked closely with the engine-building form of Flygmotor, a branch of Volvo. During the war, Flygmotor built some 1,200 engines under license to overseas manufacturers, but the planes were Saab's own. It constructed nearly a thousand of them, as bombers, fighters, and reconnaissance craft. With this, wartime Sweden resembled Switzerland. Both nations were neutral but well armed; both bordered Germany but nevertheless avoided Nazi invasion.

Saab's first postwar fighter was the jet-powered Tunnan, meaning "barrel." It took this name from its round and stubby fuselage and flew with a British De Havilland Ghost Engine that Flygmotor again built under license. The Tunnan was so good that it outflew America's F-86 fighter, which had won control of the skies during the Korean War by shooting down Soviet-built fighters. Some 660 Tunnans were delivered to the Swedish Air Force between 1951 and 1956.

Next came the Lansen, or Lance. It used another British engine, the Rolls-Royce Avon, again built under license. It was the first fighter built in Europe, and one of the first in the world, to carry air-to-surface guided missiles. It first flew in 1952, with some 450 being built between 1955 and 1960. It was so capable that some of them remained in service until 1977.

Sweden entered the era of supersonic flight with its Draken, the Dragon. It continued to use the license-built Avon but now added an afterburner and nozzle designed by Flygmotor itself, for high speed. Early versions reached 1.8 times the speed of sound; later models flew at twice this speed. It could intercept enemy aircraft in all weather under automatic control, drop 9,000 pounds (4,082 kilograms) of bombs, jam enemy radars or create false radar images, and then vanish into farmland. Over 600 were built, with deliveries beginning in 1959 and continuing into the 1970s. Some remained in service until the mid-1990s.

The most widely known Saab fighter was the Viggen, or "thunderbolt." It had an unusual shape that mounted small triangular wings forward of the main wings (called canards). These gave extra lift, enabling Viggins to land and take off from roadways with lengths of only 1,700 feet (518 meters). The Viggen reflected a move toward larger fighter aircraft that could carry heavier loads of weapons. Its engine showed that Flygmotor was reaching for greater independence, for it was a Pratt & Whitney JT8D, originally built for commercial airliners but modified by Flygmotor for supersonic flight. The Viggen first flew in 1967 and remained in production until 1990.

The newest fighter, the Gripen, takes its name from a mythical beast, the Griffin. However, the Gripen is certainly no myth; for several years this program consumed nearly one-third of Sweden's defense budget. It was designed as a lightweight high-performance fighter and was intended to replace the remaining Drakens as well as the Viggens. It serves the triple role of attack, interception, and reconnaissance. Its engine is a version of the existing F404, developed jointly by General Electric and Flygmotor. The first production aircraft joined the Swedish Air Force in 1993.

In 2000 Saab acquired the defence group Celsius, and with it over a century of Swedish defence industry history. Bofors, for example, has manufactured cannons since the 19th century. Today's Saab Avitronics and Saab Systems trace their roots back to Philips, Datasaab, Ericsson, AGA and Satt Electronics. By acquiring Celsius, Saab brought a large part of Swedish defence industry history together under one roof and created Scandinavia's dominant company in the field. The broad-based product range is clearly focused on future defence needs and a safer society.

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Page last modified: 06-04-2016 19:49:57 ZULU